Wednesday, July 22, 2015

RIP E.L. Doctorow - and the bizarre path he set me on

Author E.L. Doctorow passed away yesterday.  I have read quite a few books by him.  I believe it was my mother who suggested I read Ragtime when it came out.  If not his best work, it is the most indicative of his style.
Mr. Doctorow usually layered multiple stories on top of a historical setting.  In Ragtime, for example, there was the melodramatic story of a turn of the 1900s family, laid over the "Trial of the Century" for the murder of Sanford White by a jealous husband.  But the primary story was of a proud African American man, who was courting the maid, and his car.  Only it wasn't really about the car at all, but about his attempt to be treated as an equal, and the impossibility of it.  Ragtime deals with the issues of race, family love, murder, tabloids and the limits of accommodation.  I never saw the play, the musical or the movie, because there would be no way to capture the entirety of the book.  And that is okay.
I read a few more of his, The World's Fair and Billy Bathgate, but his prose gradually moved (for me) from being enchanting to over-wrought and I stopped reading him altogether.
That is, oddly enough, until last year when I picked up Homer and Langly and read the slim volume during our trip to St. Barts.  It was the first time I wanted one of his books to be longer and more dense, given it was all I had to read during a hurricane, once my iPad ran out of power!
Funny how the world works and connections are made, however.  Since reading Ragtime, I have been a bit obsessed with Sanford White, the architect.  New York (city and state) is FULL of Sanford's work.  Including the French Embassy (previous post) and many other Guilded Age mansions.  He also did the Washington Square Arch.
The Washington Square Arch - when completed.

This is the 2nd Madison Square Garden Building.  It was in this building, after a performance, that Mr. White was shot!
The second Madison Square Garden.
The famous statue of Diana on top of the Garden
Finally - in the "full circle of life" territory, we are investigating buying a new house on West End Ave (11th) and 60th.  It would be across the street from an amazing power plant designed by Sanford White that is still there (and will never been removed - at least while I am alive).  Go figure.
The power station near completion.  Our possible new condo is at the right hand corner (where the little white building is now).

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